When you are in the middle of a New Jersey divorce with your partner, the issue of custody comes up. If you are negotiating child custody currently, then no doubt you will hear new terms. You probably already heard legal custody or physical custody. To someone who does not know the ins and outs of child custody, they may sound similar, if not the same thing. While different, the two work together in the best interest of your child.

Physical custody is the parent who offers care to the child on a day-to-day basis. The child will normally live with this parent. Nowadays, while co-parenting is common, there are also a lot of parents who do not want to shake up the child’s routine. In order to avoid disrupting the child’s life, one parent becomes the primary caretaker. This parent has physical custody.

Legal custody and physical custody can go together. If a parent does not have legal custody, it does not mean that he or she does not have physical custody. Legal custody involves all of the major decision-making obligations. Parents are the ones who decide on education, extracurricular activities, religious education, health care and more. When two parents split, the non-custodial parent normally wants a say in how the child grows up.

Legal custody provides parents with the right to make decisions involving how to raise the child. Often, both parents will have legal custody. The only time that a judge may decide otherwise is if one parent is a threat to the child or unstable. Often, when both parents are still in the picture, they choose joint legal custody.